July 11--"DESPICABLE ME 2" (PG)
3.5 out of 4 stars
STEVE CARELL, KRISTEN WIIG, BENJAMIN BRATT, MIRANDA COSGROVE, RUSSELL BRAND
This is one of those rare movie series where the sequel is better than the original, and the original was no slouch.
This time out, we start with the formerly evil Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) as the good guy the loving father of the most adorable trio of little girls to grace the big screen in ages.
Add even more of the quirky Minion creatures than in the first outing, a partner and eventual love interest (Kristen Wiig), a story that deftly combines laughs with silly action and you've got some wonderfully creative comedy.
Keep in mind that this is coming from a critic who, before this adorably funny film, was feeling the symptoms of severe animated feature overdose.
The inventive comic moments make this the best animated film to come along since "Cars."
As the likable characters move a plot involving Gru and a super-villain nemesis, there are hilarious moments spaced every minute or two throughout the film.
If it's not a room full of Minions playing at a beach or talking that hilarious Minion chatter or eating ice cream in the cellar, the writers wring a laugh from standard father daughter relationship issues Gru being concerned about young Margo showing interest in boys, for instance. Or it's the strangely shaped Gru dressed as a fairy princess because the one he hired for a girls' birthday party didn't show up.
Credit Carell with making Gru funny, but the animators, actors and writers also deserve praise for making those goofy, little, yellow fireplugs the Minions the funniest sidekicks to ever hit the screen.
Even the violence is a riot. When there's a reason for the good guys to fire on the villains, their guns are loaded with jelly.
Rated PG for rude humor and mild action. 98 min. [MC, PV, RA]
"KEVIN HART: LET ME EXPLAIN" (R)
2.5 out of 4 stars
Those who find comedian Kevin Hart funny put me in that group will enjoy this concert film recorded during multiple performances last year.
But those who loved his earlier work may be a bit put off by the self-congratulatory aspects of the film, as well as the way his edgy act is turning an even-deeper shade of blue.
Hart is funny, but he's funniest when he makes light of himself and his success in show biz.
Rated R for pervasive language including sexual references. 75 min. [PV]
(c)2013 The Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg, Va.)
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